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Court Asked To Declare Tanko Mohammad Unfit, Order New Selection |RN

Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Mohammad

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has okayed a fresh suit seeking to bar President Muhammadu Buhari from appointing the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, to take over the leadership of the judiciary in a substantive capacity.

The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/420/2019, is praying the court to declare that Justice Muhammad who is currently the most senior jurist at the Supreme Court, is unfit to replace the sacked CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Specifically, the plaintiff, Chief Malcom Omirhobo, who is a human rights lawyer, is praying the court to declare that the Acting CJN, Justice Muhammad, having made himself available as a tool that was used in the violation of the Constitution, especially with regards to the “illegal” removal of the former CJN, is therefore not a proper and fit person to be recommended for appointment to head the judiciary.

It is the contention of the plaintiff that the Acting CJN conducted himself in a manner that reduced the confidence of the public in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary. Cited as 1st to 7th Defendants in the suit were the National Judicial Council, NJC, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, the Acting CJN, the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the National Assembly.

The plaintiff, among other things, urged the court to declare that the suspension and/or removal of a CJN from office, is a shared responsibility of the 1st Defendant (NJC), the 5th defendant (Buhari) and 7th Defendant (National Assembly). He argued that President Buhari lacked the constitutional powers to unilaterally suspend and/or the removal a sitting CJN from office, as was done in the case of Onnoghen.

Besides, he prayed the court to declare that by combined interpretation sections 1(1 )(2), 231(4), 292(1)(a)(i)(b), 153(1)(i), 158(1) and paragraph 21 (a)(b) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, “it is unlawful and undemocratic for the 4th and 5th Defendants (Federal Government and President Buhari), to declare the office of the CJN vacant on January 25, 2019 and consequently appoint and swear in the 3rd Defendant as the acting CJN”.

He, therefore, applied for a court order to restrain the National Assembly from confirming any appointment of Justice Muhammad as the substantive CJN.

Likewise, for, “An order, compelling the 2nd Defendant (FJSC), to select and the 1st Defendant (NJC), to recommend the most qualified Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria that is fit and proper, to the 5th Defendant, for appointment to office of the CJN, and for the confirmation of the 7th Defendant with a two-thirds majority vote”.

Aside praying the court to bar President Buhari from appointing Justice Muhammad as the substantive CJN, the Plaintiff, in a 65-paragraph affidavit he filed in support of the suit, stressed that unless restrained by the court, the Executive Arm of Government would continue to violate the extant provisions of the Constitution and sanctity of the judiciary.

Meantime, the suit which has already been assigned to Justice Iyang Ekwo for hearing is coming barely 72 hours after the NJC disclosed that it had approved the extension of Justice Muhammad’s tenure as the Acting CJN.

The Council had in a statement over the weekend, said it had at the end of the meeting is held on April 18, considered and approved President Buhari’s request for the extension of the appointment the Acting CJN for another three months.

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NJC Begins Hearing On Petitions Against Onnoghen, Acting CJN, Tanko |RN

Walter-onnoghen-and-tanko-muhammad-

Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

 

An investigative panel of the National Judicial Council will this week begin hearing on the petitions of alleged misconduct written against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen; and the Acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, The PUNCH learnt on Sunday.

Our correspondent learnt the five-man panel set up by the NJC to investigate the petitions against the top judicial officers would conduct a hearing on Muhammad’s case on Tuesday.

It was also learnt that the panel had its first sitting on Onnoghen’s case on February 6 and adjourned till Wednesday.

The NJC had at its February 13, 2019 meeting reviewed the pre-assessment report on the petitions written against the two men and considered the complaints worthy of being investigated.

The council then set up a five-man panel led by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice S.A Akande, to investigate the petitions and issued queries to the judicial officers.

One of the petitions was reportedly written by a civil society group, the Anti-Corruption and Research-Based Data Initiative, and its Executive Director, Mr Dennis Aghanya.

The allegations in the petition sent to the NJC were said to be the same as the one sent to the Code of Conduct Bureau, made up of six counts, accusing the suspended CJN of failure to declare some bank accounts with huge funds in foreign currencies as part of his assets.

The other petition sent to the NJC was said to be by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission accusing Onnoghen of having suspicious lodgements of huge funds in his bank accounts.

The petition sent to the NJC against Muhammad was reportedly authored by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), who requested that Muhammad be sanctioned for submitting himself to President Muhammadu Buhari to be sworn in as acting CJN without any recommendation by the NJC.

Our correspondent gathered that both Onnoghen and Muhammad had replied to the queries issued to them.

Agbakoba, the author of the petition against Justice Muhammad, confirmed to our correspondent on Sunday that he had received a notice for the Tuesday hearing on the Acting CJN’s case.

“I will appear before the panel on Tuesday,” Agbakoba told our correspondent over the telephone.

Our correspondent learnt that Mr R.A. Rabana-Lawal (SAN), who was said to have led Onnoghen’s team to the March 6 sitting of the NJC’s investigative panel, could not be reached on the telephone on Sunday.    (Punch)

 

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